Jerry Summers: Sherwood – Crew Creek Valley

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With the beautiful mountainous region of the Cumberland Plateau near Monteagle-Sewanee as a backdrop, a trip to the Franklin County community of Sherwood is both scenic and historic.

The Sewanee exit off I-24 on Hwy 41A passes the south end of the University of the South campus village. If one continues to descend towards Cowan, a left turn onto Tennessee State Route 56 will take you to a steep decline on a well-paved county road that is mostly unoccupied as you descend six miles to Sherwood, Tennessee, in the Crow Creek valley. The state line is crossed at the small community of Anderson, Alabama and becomes Alabama State Route 117, eventually reaching Stevenson, Alabama. At this location are railroad tracks that once carried passenger trains and still carry commercial freight on the CSX railroad along the highway for much of the valley travel stretch. Access to the Bridgeport, Alabama – South Pittsburgh freeway will return the traveler to I-24.

Originally named Kitchen’s Station or Catchings Station, Sherwood was just a stagecoach stop that existed between Sewanee and Anderson in its early days.

Sherwood had been named for the Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota during the Civil War after he purchased over 1,400 acres and obtained a charter from the Tennessee Legislature for his land corporation.

In 1892, Byron Gager established the Gager Lime Manufacturing Company which operated a limestone quarry and lime kiln in the community until the production facilities closed in 1949.

During this time, Sherwood’s population grew to nearly 2,000, but dropped drastically after the economy slowed and the limestone plant closed.

Descending into the valley on the left, there remains the castle like facility ruins that were included in the Tennessee Preservation Trust in 2002-2003 as one of 10 structures on the Tennessee Endangered Property List in because of their distinct architectural style and also because of historical concern that a “continued lack of maintenance” could lead to their destruction and threaten their survival.

Sherwood is located just over 13 miles southeast of Winchester, Tennessee and if you want to enjoy a scenic journey through an area reminiscent of the rural beauty portrayed in Burt Reynolds’ film “Deliverance”, a short day trip will be nice.

The Sunday buffet at the Sewanee Inn and the backdoor on State Route 56 will be a bon voyage. Remember to have plenty of gas, good tires, and a mechanically sound mode of transportation, as facilities are limited until Alabama.

Rumors exist that University of the South (Sewanee) football coaches Shirley Majors, Horace Moore and Clarence Carter used to compete in their own version of a road race whenever they had to go in Chattanooga to watch the University of Chattanooga (UC) or one of the local high school games to search for players who might be interested in playing for Sewanee, as a non-athletic scholarship participant.

Starting in the village of Sewanee, one vehicle would take 41A and the old Dixie Road (US41) and the other car would take State Route 56 to a predetermined location outside of Chattanooga in a race to determine who would be dinner manager in the quaint town.

With the creation of Interstate 24, many such races disappeared, but for a select few, the memories remain in the history of the area!

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jerry summers

(If you have additional information on any of Mr. Summers’ articles or have suggestions or ideas for a future Chattanooga area historical piece, please contact Mr. Summers at [email protected])

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